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Interview

These past few weeks have found me very excited to provide some more directed pieces about community current events so that you hear the stories behind the art and events that are going. I feel this is important because it provides you a means to develop a deeper connection with the richness of the community we are all a part of. It also is a direct challenge to any person who tries to dismiss the artistic endeavors that anyone is engaged in within our city. That is one reason why I decided to do a post in the lead up to last night’s Standard show to show people the ideas and feelings behind the event (READ HERE). Without hearing what the people behind the event have to say, Its too easy to just say: “OHH, I don’t like those cliques, or their not playing my genre, or I WON’T step foot in that building.” However, once you see their side of the story, its much harder to just dismiss them.  Through their words, you can see they have larger goals of scene building and bringing new people into the community. Don’t we all have that same goal, but often get lost in our own devices to achieve it?

I think our scene should stand for a belief in the validity and beauty of art and dance events in its widest form and will not tear people down for trying to express themselves or provide experiences for us to dance in dark. This means letting go of metrics of scene success or failure and thinking about the acts of creating, learning, and community building as outcomes in their own right. Our community is not a for-profit corporation, we deal not in money and hype, but in sound, art, and human emotion. We are not concerned with flipping a profit, but with finding a meaningful human existence where the creation and sharing of art at a community level essential to navigating human existence.

Today, I want to move away from highlighting the philosophy behind a new event to detailing a DJ’s thoughts about a mix he has put together. I feel this is important, because we need to place greater value on mixes as vehicles of expression. We need more critical engagement with what mixes are saying to us and what the artist was trying to achieve with them. Too me, mixes still tell me a lot about the artists in our community. They tell me about their taste, their thoughts about sound, and how willing they are to push off the grid of certain dance music rules/norms.  I think a great place to start is DJ Bohno’s recent Sink Deep|Think Deep two part mixtape.  You may remember DJ Bohno’s “Heartbeats” mixes. They were explorations of the sounds of love through the sounds of hip-hop, R & B, House, Disco, and other genres.

He has always pushed away a one genre approach to mix-making to demonstrate how multiple genres can be put together to craft narratives about the common experiences we all share as humans. His recent Sink Deep|Think Deep mix series is no exception. Bohno has crafted a wonderful mix series that facilitates moving through the simultaneous joys and fears of life across a variety of genres. You can feel his emotions through his track selections and transitions as he paints vivid vignettes over the course of the two hour tape. (Cheers to Marko on the Excellent Cover Art as well!)

However, instead of me telling you more about the tape, I will move to a short interview I did with Paul to hear what he had to say about the mix and his relationship to sound.

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Bohno: Well, music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up I had 3 older brothers and the one closest to me was 6 years older. They all listened to different music so that is where I got to know sound. Andy listened to the beastie boys and nirvana. Kevin listened to radiohead and black sabbath, and Michael listened to a lot of indie and was also in a ska band himself. So at a young age I had all kinds of music thrown at me and I loved it all. I did not did discriminate against any genre or type of music when I was little. I remember loving Hanson, N’Sync, TLC, and even The Spice Girls when I was little. That attitude still holds true now. I enjoy most all music and it is evident in my DJ sets.
Music and Sound in general have always been my love in life. Some people love football, some people love neuro-science, others love writing, but I love sounds. Not just music either. But noises too. Being outdoors and hearing the loons on Weld Lake in Maine or waking up in my house in Ohio and hearing the crickets in the morning. Sounds fascinate me. They have deep rooted memories in them. And I feel like they change my mood and the chemicals in my brain a little bit more than most things.

LA: You recently changed your name from Pro Bono to Bohno. Walk me through why you changed it.
B: Trying to find a name that fits is very tough for producers and DJs alike. I remember first trying to pick a name for me about 5 years ago with my buddy Bill in Athens, Ohio. I wanted to be Kid Disko but bill said that “you shouldn’t make your name force you into a genre”. So that ruled out Disco Bloodbath too :(. Then I thought well okay, I will make it true to me. I have had the nickname Bono my whole life. It was passed down to me by my older brothers so I thought I would use that somehow. Then I thought of the term pro bono since my father and my brother are lawyers and that relates to my life as well. So I stuck with DJ Pro Bono. Later on I found out that the latin meaning of the term is ‘For Good’. Which I really liked. I have always been a happy and positive person and my DJ sets show that. They are for the good, not the evil. So I kept the name for a while. But the meaning of the law term ‘pro bono’ is to do charity work or to do work for free to help someone. I did not want this attached to my name and it making people think I play for free. DJs need to get paid too. So I recently changed it to Bohno which is much more simple and sleek. No more changes. I finally found my name.

LA: One of my favorite things about your mixes (Heartbeats & Sink Deep|Think Deep) is you use it to tell a story and provide a short narrative to orient listeners. What has drawn you to story-telling with your mixes?
B: In my mind, there is no reason to make a mix that doesn’t have some sort of ‘flow’ or ‘story line’. You might as well just put together an iTunes playlist and press play on the shuffle button if your not putting some flow into your mixes. Just like a DJ in a club has to slowly build and rise the energy. And just like they have to work with the other DJs to make the night progress slowly upwards is a short story in itself. I strive to make my mixes stories simply because that is much more interesting than just a bunch of recently popular tracks thrown together. I think of them as a journey. I have my own story in my head for each of them. But you can take them how you want. Make up your own story in your head. Whatever it makes you feel, I just want my mixes to help people. Help them maybe get over something or someone. Or maybe just help brighten their mood for that day.

LA: What story were you trying to tell with the Sink Deep|Think Deep mix?
B: I wanted to tell the story of a person who is sad. Goes to the beach to think about life. And they end up taking a journey into the deep sea to drown their sorrows. But while they are sinking, the journey changes them. I imagine them seeing massively large sea monsters and lost cities on the ocean floor. Seeing new forms of life and old ones that were lost long ago in a time unknown This changes their mind about life and they emerge from the water at the end with a new outlook on life. That ends Sink Deep. Think Deep is a prequel story about them enjoying life and embracing it. Dancing on the beach all day and all through the night, celebrating their journey and new outlook on life.
The entire mix has a feeling to it. It is heavily influenced in Garage music from Symbols Records as well as some UK Garage. But I wanted it all to sound Deep and almost like you are sinking in water. A lot of the drops are very bubbly. Sink Deep is much darker and more relaxed. And Think Deep still has all of those dark kind of bubbly flavors, but it is also uplifting and refreshing.
All of my ideas for the mixes come from current life experiences. Like I said before, sound and music are a huge part of my life and my psyche, so these mixes are therapeutic for me. They help me get through things. And I hope they help others do the same.

LA: I always see undercurrents of Hip-Hop and R & B in your mixes. Why are you so drawn to these sounds?
B: I am a 90’s kid and we are rooted in Hip-Hop, Pop Music, and R&B. Like I said, growing up I loved listening to singers like TLC, Aaliyah, Boyz II Men, etc. I also loved 90’s Hip-Hop. Artists like Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, and all the classics. I remember coming home from school everyday and watching BET Top 10 Live and TRL. These come ups in music influence my life still. And obviously still influence my mixes heavily as well.

LA: I know you have been hard at work on your own productions. Have you found the creative process of production different/more challenging than mixmaking?
B: The process is much different. In college, I was having troubles finding out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. DJing helped me shape my life and find direction. At first I didn’t know what I was doing and I had to find out myself. Eventually I did find myself and what kind of DJ I wanted to be and I am finally comfortable in that now. But moving on from DJing and into production I am also trying to find out who I am as a producer. Like I have been saying, I love all sorts of music and I am a fan of so many producers out there. It is very difficult deciding what kind of music I want to make. So far I have tried my hand at some Hip-Hop, Garage, Disco House, and Nu-Disco. My roots as a DJ are in Disco and Funk influenced House music, so that was what I thought I wanted to make right off the bat, but now I am not sure sure. As you can tell my love for garage music and future bass have grown immensely this year thanks to a lot of producer friends and I have been exploring those sounds now as well. I am just trying to do what feels right to me and what comes naturally. I think eventually I will hone in my sound just as I did my DJ stylings. It is just going to take some time and work at it.

Jack Shack TV is a boiler room-esq video mix show that our own local (I count Athens as part of our broader scene even though they have their own distinct community) jack-of-all genre’s DJ Barticus runs out of his basement in Athens, Ohio. You may recognize the name. DJ Barticus was one half of the duo (With DJ Self Help) that ran the widely popular Athens & Columbus Dance or Die party that ran for 6-8 years.Just like in the Dance or Die Parties, DJ Barticus has used Jack Shack TV to push an open format approach to music that place hip-hop, dance, and pop styles of music on an equal pedestal. Just take a quick listen to the show he did with George Hertzel. Look at that Keytar! Man.

What Barticus did with the whole concept really impressed me, because he was not scared to take a really popular model and bring in his own flavor to make it his own.  Watching just one of the episodes, you can see how Barticus and his friends have taken the Boiler Room model and twisted it to their own purposes.  The show presents their own unique perspective on music and is devoid of the hype machine-esq trappings of so many other video mix shows. Instead, it is injected with a sort of public access TV vibe that is rooted in notions of their local Athens community.

DJ Pro Bono 63 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Most importantly, I think it also reaffirms how much people in our community can do with very little. Barticus decided one day, “Hey, I want to do that.” And so he did. This is the story I hear again and again in our scene. He didn’t wait until he had the right equipment, the right premium accounts on youtube or vimeo, or a complete online identity. He created a name, got his VHS camera ready (He has since upgraded), contacted musicians, and started filming. Then all of a sudden a new video mix show was born. If you take away anything from this story, I hope you feel inspired today to do something creatively you have always wanted to do. You can do a lot with the cheap or free tools you already have at your disposal. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the interview and my collection of some of the Jack Shack TV shows. See there accounts on YouTube and Vimeo for the complete video catalogues and listen to audio of all the shows on their mixcloud :

Thunder St. Clair 60 min Jack Shack DJ Set from Jack Shack TV on Vimeo.

Local Autonomy:  It is obvious from listening and following your eclectic output that you are a big proponent of staying open to a diverse range of influences and sounds. Why are you such a big proponent of an open format approach to music?

DJ Self Help

BARTICUS: It all comes down to 2 things: Hiphop and ADD. Being a hiphop DJ got me open to all kinds of music, because hiphop takes its samples and influences from everywhere. The ADD part means that I don’t want to hear the same thing for an entire night.

LA: How did the idea for Jack Shack come about?

BART: Jack Shack is a combination of many ideas that have been floating around my head. I was inspired by the Talking Heads song, “Found A Job” and Mission Man’s “Do What You Love”. The format for the show was obviously stolen/borrowed from Boiler Room. I would watch episodes of Boiler Room full screen while i was on the other side of the room doing dishes. I just loved the whole setup, the people behind the DJ were just there hanging out in the DJ booth, and the person on the other side of the screen was the audience. Like hearing the Ramones and starting a punk band the next day, that’s how i felt about the Boiler Room.

I made a list of 30 people that I would want to book for Jack Shack. Everyone who I told about the idea was very excited. it felt like such a good idea. It didn’t take long for me to get the idea to want to record and share my friends DJ sets. The more I thought of it the more up sides i saw to it. I still can’t see any downsides.

I also wanted to capture the vibe of what it was like when i first started DJaying. I would go to a friends basement and we would take turns working on our skratches. I was hoping some one just getting started could find some inspiration in these videos.

LA: Youtube is your prime medium. Why did you choose the video sharing site to release your shows?

BART: Youtube is the spot people go to quickly share music. Something on youtube will reach more people than any other video sharing site. The problem with youtube is we have different interpretations of what is fair use and what should fall under Internet Radio Equality Act. I’ve had to move some of the content over to vimeo and not as many people see those videos.
At this point if i want to keep using youtube i am going to have to switch the format to original music, and i really hate being forced into that. I really don’t value originality in music that much. i think the best things in music come from freely building on each others ideas.

LA: As a fan of what many people consider obsolete technologies, I loved your use of VHS recording for the first few episodes. What made you turn to the VHS?

Burgle

BART: I turned to VHS because i wanted it to look crappy, but sound amazing. I’m not a very visual person and for most things VHS is really ‘good enough’ for me. I have a collection of VHS tapes (and VCRs) because i sometimes project VHS behind me whlie i DJ. I like how VHS movies have no menu, i like how the flicker when paused. i like how it looks when you play them in fast forward or rewind. I like how a tape looks after you re-use it too many times.
The only reason i’ve started to go with the webcam is because of how much time it saves me in the editing stage.

LA: What do you hope to achieve with the Jack Shack concept?
BART: I would like to start doing more episodes at different venues, keep it as different as possible. I would like to see more people make their own version of jack shack. realistically the shows I produce are going to not happen as often. I just started to run for public office and that is going to keep me busy.

Mission Man

In my post on the infrastructure of the Columbus scene I posted 2 weeks ago (Read That Here), I delved into how people bring our music to life through their interactions with one another and the use of the music and traditions we love. This is an important point to make when you are talking about a music community, because our scene is only the sum of all the individuals that are spinning, producing, listening, or dancing to the music. The problem with this approach is it makes scene analysis a much more complex matter that defies easy categorization.

As humans, we do not like complexity. It makes us feel uncomfortable. We like to feel like we have a handle on the world around us. Psychological research has shown that we seek to try and streamline our interpretation of the world around us by placing things in simple categories. This is an essential coping mechanism for living in our highly mediated, complex world, as we have to be able to put blinders on and easily categorize things in order to carry on the basic tasks of being human. I see this happen in our scene. Its much easier to place the trajectory of our scene in the Right or Wrong box by saying, “Oh, the scene is going in the right directions, because of X, Y, & Z” or “The scene is going in the wrong directions because of X, Y, & Z”. Just as it is also easier categorize the crews that populate our scene in different boxes, “Oh that click’s sets and shows are played out, commercial, and this crew over here is authentic and underground”. (Genres also work in a similar way).  We all fall into this trap since we are taught from a very young age to put things neatly into categories (Race ,Gender, Sexuality operate the same way). By becoming active in the scene, you quickly learn the relevant categorizations you need to be a member of the community.

The problem with these categorizations is that they do violence to the rich complexity of the practices, rhythms, and art we make on an everyday basis.  Our scene is never going in a right or wrong direction. Crews are not commercial or underground. We always exist somewhere in the middle. The scene shifts and evolves as the people in different crews enter,  exit, and re-enter the scene, change their tastes in music, or try to adapt different artistic concepts to their practices in a scene. For this reason, no one person could give an accurate assessment of what the state of the scene is at any one moment, because you just don’t know what everyone is doing at all times.  There will always be another pocket of people working with the same ideas and rhythms in a different way that you didn’t even know existed or have been forgotten.

I seem to gravitate towards these people on the fringe, because I think it helps us understand our scene in a much richer fashion. For instance, there is a rich history of improvisation and experimentation in our music community. Did you know that the individual first credited with creating the mash-up lives in our city? (Trademark Gunderson of the ECC) Did you know our city has housed multiple experimental/electronic tape labels that have released almost over 150 distinct pieces of music over the last 20 years? (GMBY, Exoteque Music). Just as shocked as most people are that their was and still is a thriving dance scene in Columbus, it may be shock to people in the dance community that there is still a thriving experimental scene working with beat-driven and beatless electronic music. I have already delved into this part of our community with interviews with Alison Coleman (director of The Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab), Mike Shiflet (Noise/Sound/Electronic Musician), & Jeff Chenault (Ten-Speed Guillotine/ Noise/Sound/ Electronic Musician). Yet, that was just skimming the surface.

One of the most interesting developments I have been following over the past 2 months is Jeff Chenault’s work to restart his Exoteque Music Label.  When I got to the Blur show in November, Chenault handed me a piece of paper announcing the re-emergence of the label and a list of releases forthcoming in 2013.

Release List

To say I am excited about the re-surfacing of this label is a gross understatement. I think local record labels are such an integral part of the infrastructure of our music scene. Not only do they give local musicians the ability to understand the creative process of putting together cohesive pieces of music and sharing it with the world, but they also send a beacon to the rest of the world that creativity is streaming out of our city. It furthers our artistic dialogue, and enables all people in the scene to have a file or physical object they can hold on to and enjoy. I sent Jeff a few questions, and he was gracious enough to provide me some insight behind the history of the label and where it is going now:

LA: When and how did the Exoteque Label first get started?

JC: Exoteque Music originally started as a DIY cassette label in 1983. It was a release platform for my own music that gradually expanded to include other artists as well.  The label was originally known as the International Terrorist Network, or ITN, but wisely decided to change the name.  Exoteque Music was chosen because it represents my dual interest in exotica and technology.

LA: What is propelling you to bring it back now? Is there something brewing in Columbus and across the country that is inspiring you?

JC: Since getting back into music a couple years ago I have been doing a serious amount of recording, both live and in the studio.  I’ve also joined the Fuse Factory organization to help bring artists to Columbus for their Frequency Friday events.  Exoteque Music allows me to showcase not only my own work but other people’s work that I highly respect and admire.  Columbus has a huge electronic and underground music scene.  It is a virtual hub of creative sound artists.  People like Mike Shiflet, Joe Panzner, Mark Gunderson, Mike Textbeak, Steve Wymer, John M. Bennett and Kevin Kennedy are doing incredible work.  These are the people that inspire me.

LA: Your release note that you recently passed out at BLUR notified the world that you already have a full schedule for releases for the upcoming year. It also said that the releases will be available in various formats. What drove your choice of release format for each of the releases?

JC: I love physical objects.  Records, cassettes, and CD’s were formats that I grew up with.  I loathe the digital download but do see its advantage for people who want portability.  It also helps to preserve these recordings as well.  When I decided to re-launch the Exoteque Music label I wanted to make available any and all formats that I could afford.  Everything released will be in some kind of physical format as well as having a digital download.  

LA: I think it’s a great idea to also bring back past releases from the initial run of the label from the 80s and 90s. How did you make the choices what to bring back?

JC: Over the years I’ve been slowly digitizing some of my favorite releases.  A few things like the Stimulus and Response compilations are simply amazing.  The choices were simple.  If I loved it and deemed it worthy of re-mastering then I’m going to reissue it.  This stuff is too good to let sit in the basement collecting dust.  My most anticipated reissue is a cassette that I never even released.  It was a privately pressed cassette, released in the 80’s, by Paul Steinborn aka/Shame, Exposure.   Paul lost all his master tapes and all that remains are the cassettes that he sold locally and a few tracks he did for the S/M Operations label.   I owned one of these cassettes so we meticulously re-mastered it and gave it new life, all with Paul’s permission of course.  The CD will contain all his known recordings and come with original artwork made by Paul specifically for this release.  

LA: What are your hopes for this run of the label?

JC: Exposing people to new music has always been my hopes for the label.  Some of the best music I have ever heard comes from independent artists.  If I can turn people on to this music, and preserve some of these vintage recordings at the same time, I have fulfilled my goal.

Below is a list of scheduled releases for 2013…..

1)     Shame, Exposure; Werkshau – CD and download

2)     Circuitry Room; Tuned to Tomorrow – CD and download

3)     Best of Frequency Friday Vol. 1 (various artists) – CD

4)     Jeff Central; Primativa – 25th Anniversary Edition – CD and download

5)     The Escargonauts; same, Vinyl LP, CD and download

6)     Jeff Central and Friends – Multi Collaborative LP and download

7)     ZOA / ZOA Mike Textbeak/Paul Von Aphid collaboration – CD and download

8)     Highly Funktioning Kult – CD and download

9)     Jeff Central solo – cassette

10)  Dan Rockwell solo – CD and download

11)  Circuitry Room collaboration with poet John M. Bennett – CD and download

12)  Jeff Central and Hal McGee collaboration – CD and download

Trademark G. & Frilly of Columbus based Evolution Control Committee have their own weekly radio show called The Sound of Plaid that airs every thursday. This week they had me on the show to talk Columbus electronic music history and to show a selection of some local Ohio artists I had been enjoying. I think the show is a great saturday morning listen to get you ready for the benefit show BLUR this Evening (For More Info CLICK HERE). We got a great line-up of artists for you including Mike Shiflet & Jeff Chenault, Trademark G., Textbeak, Aaron Austen & DJ Push, The Fallen (FBK & Plural), and FUNERALSEach artist gets around an hour. Each artist is given complete freedom to do what they want. That same spirit also pervades the guest spot I did on The Sound of Plaid. I brought a smattering of experimental, ambient, and dance tracks by local musicians that blur the boundaries of genre to show you and the rest of the world that our city does push musical boundaries.

Tracklisting:

1.) Evolution Control Comittee — Jessiematic
2.) Synek – Paradiba — Rano Records
3.) FBK – Nanofonque — Absoloop Records
4.) Plural – F*** It — Audio Textures Recordings
5.) Burgle – Pounder — Self-Released
6.) Mike Shiflet — Web Over Glen Echo — Self-Released
7.) Forest Management — A Sketch Of The Historical Pattern Of Blue Ocean Creation 
8.) Walleye – This Is Your Heart, This Is My House — Self Released
9.) Jeff Central/Chris Phinney — Thermal Blooming — World Records
10.) The Weird Lovemakers — Quiet Spillage
11.) FUNERALS — Boo Sra — Mishka
12.) OHIOAN — Microscopist — Self-Released
13.) Dirty Current — Anubis — Self-Released

I could not be more excited to share this interview with the two musicians, Mollie Wells and Casey Immel-Brown, that form the Columbus, OH based electronic music outfit FUNERALS. It comes on the heels of these two musicians continuing their consistent production and mix work in town and around the United States. In the past few years, they have garnered a great deal of respect around the country and world for their ability to breath life into the areas in-between genre formulas. I know I enjoy their production and mix work for its ability to put together diverse strands of music thought into a new concoction.  When I started my project a year ago, I held it as one of my goals to have a conversation with them to share it with you all. I couldn’t imagine that I would be in a position to share an interview with you all and have them playing the BLUR benefit show this weekend at 400 W Rich with all proceeds from the door going to the Columbus, Oh based experimental art/music non-profit The Fuse Factory (More Info on logistics and artist line up HERE).  Call me sentimental, but my dreams with the Local Autonomy project are centered around sharing ideas, music, and a space we all can call our own. I feel this interview definitely contributes to these goals and our common dialogue by delving into issues of social justice, social media, and their creative process. Specifically, I think its so important to think about what Mollie and Casey had to say about the role our community can play in pushing a more equitable space for all genders, races, sexualities, religions, ages to find common ground.  I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed the conversation I had with them.

Interview:

LA: What role did music play in each of your lives growing up? How did each of you become musicians?

MOLLIE: Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started singing at a really early age, used to put on these performances for my mom where I’d dance and sing along to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I can remember making these tapes in early grade school, with one of those Playskool tape recorders, do you remember those? I’d make up songs, or sing parts of Disney songs I liked, and beat the ground with a baton for percussion. My biggest dream back then was to play Ariel in a stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Actually, I’m not totally positive that’s not still my dream…I often spend hours at a stretch squealing “Part of Your World” at our cat. No shame. 

Anyway, I did all the usual music stuff in school: Choir, band, jazz band, some silly musical theatre. At some point around 7th grade, when I started getting into punk and grunge, whatever the hell was happening then, I had this sudden realization that I could actually be in a band. So I started forming them, one little thing after another, until finally they became increasingly more…real, I guess? I moved to New York for a bit, spent most of my early 20s touring, then shifted into writing about music and teaching myself electronic stuff. So it’s been a pretty constant and well-defined path for me.

CASEY: It was one of those things that was always around when I was growing up. My parents never had like a crazy encyclopedic music collection or anything. They had really specific, strong, but varied musical tastes. So I was exposed to a lot of music growing up, but not a ton of the really, really classic things that a lot of people of our generation would’ve had their parents listen to. When I was really young my parents got into Windam Hill records stuff, so I had a lot of exposure to early New Age. Kind of the pre-Yanni era, when it was all acoustic guitar and piano, with occasional chamber groups. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m sure some of the minimalism of that stuck with me. Other than that they listened to a lot of somewhat obscure folk and classical stuff, with kind of a weird smattering of contemporary stuff that they latched onto for whatever reason. Particularly Dire Straits and Tears for Fears, which I can’t really blame them for I suppose… There were also always instruments around, and I was always messing around with them. Eventually I started trying to learn my mom’s guitar, and I became obsessed enough with it that they bought me a cheap Aria Pro-II strat copy. From then on I was just always working on playing and writing music. From the age of like 11 or 12 it was just the only thing I ever wanted to do. Oddly enough, both Mollie and I played French Horn in school. We probably both had the inclination to choose the most unusual instrument that was available to us in that context. Though I don’t think I ever did as much with it as I wish I did, simply because those things are annoying as hell to walk home with.

LA: What music scenes did each of you grow up in? How did these scenes influence how you look at music communities and the art of making music?

MOLLIE: For me, the scenes I grew up in are divided into distinct phases. There was the early-mid high school phase where I was sort of constructing a reality; I grew up in a miniscule town, so there wasn’t much in the way of underground culture. I was a weird kid, chronically haunted by what I know now is OCD and anxiety, but back then, I just thought I was a misfit. I didn’t relate to the normal kids, I guess, so I ended up hanging out with the only punks that existed there, who were really just goths, and really just mall-goths. So anything I knew about underground culture, I knew only from those kids, whatever magazines I could get my hands on and 120 Minutes. I saw 1991: The Year Punk Broke when I was 14, and I wanted desperately to live in that world, so I spent a lot of time listening to Sonic Youth, Hole, Babes in Toyland, then stuff like Portishead and Elastica and Cibo Matto later. It was just what managed to trickle into my limited purview at the time.

But around 17 or 18, once I left that town, moved to New York then back to Columbus, I was exposed to the reality of all that. I dated this guy who went to Bard College, and he got me into riot grrrl, which filtered into hardcore and eventually the sort of early 2000s synth-punk/post-hardcore stuff. That’s where I feel like I really grew up, because that’s where I learned to be not only a musician but a thoughtful, politically minded, community-oriented person. It was from those scenes that I started touring and really making music on a larger public scale, and those years definitely set the stage for who I am now. And I think that, combined with the experience of being a kid cobbling together pieces of culture in a small town, has really influenced my perspective more than anything. On one hand, I still combine my personal affinities in ways that make sense to me, regardless of what makes sense to anyone else. It’s that small-town individualism. But on the other, I put a huge impetus on community and collaboration, because none of what we do — or what I’ve ever done — would be possible without it. None of us creates in a vacuum, and it’s just folly to play that game of keeping up with the Joneses. If we can’t honestly support our friends — and I mean, doing so with no benefit to us, completely selflessly — then I just feel like we’re all sort of working in vain. It becomes egoism, navel-gazing. It happens a lot right now. And it misses the point entirely.

CASEY: I grew up pretty solidly in the mid to late 90s hardcore scene in Columbus. At the time Columbus was actually one of the more major centers for DIY punk and hardcore, and was hugely involved in the merging of music and political activism. It probably can’t be overstated how much that framed how I look at things now, though I think lots of the lessons have really only started to become clear to me in retrospect as I’ve come into contact with people who didn’t grow up in an environment where everything was viewed as so naturally accessible. I don’t think it ever really occurred to me to view making music, putting out records, or putting on shows as something that was somehow done by a group of people separate from those who listen to the music, buy the records or go to the shows. It’s always seemed very clear to me that whatever it is you’re into, the people who are doing it can’t really be that much smarter or better than you are. And they certainly started out no less clueless than you might be. There was always just a very direct line for me from consuming art to making it, and I’m sure that came out of being so close to so many people who were not only doing both, but showing other people what they were doing. As much as we talk about the oversaturation of music now, like the idea that anyone can watch an Ableton tutorial and call themselves a producer, and as much as that’s true for sure, I still find myself shocked by just how many people really think of music as a hierarchical thing. So many people still have this weird view that there’s some singular “music business” to be broken into, and that there’s thing huge world that musicians, show promoters and labels are a part of that’s somehow separate and above them. And at the same time there’s this weird view that goes with that on the other side that if they just break into it, they’re instantly going to be making a great living off of the tracks they sell. I guess I was fortunate enough to have had that narrative completely dissected before I was old enough for it to have really sunk in with me on any level. Also, when it comes to politics and general social outlook, it was just always so natural for it to go hand in hand with music for me that I don’t think it ever occurred to me for it to be any other way. It always just made sense that you’d gravitate towards art and communities with shared values, and that if people are making art about the things that matter to them, then you’re going to be attracted to art produced by the people who care about the same things as you. There really is this huge divide for a lot of people when it comes to politics and music that never made sense to me at all. It’s something that affects your life just the same as romance or sex or aging or mental illness affects your life. Why in the world would one thing that you’re affected by and care about be somehow off the table for art? And obviously when you have a community of people who care about things, they’re going to what to act on the things they care about. But that attitude definitely came out of coming up in a time and place where there were as many ‘zines about politics as about music, and as many shows were benefits for some cause as weren’t. 

LA: Why do you think it is important to build a music community where you are able to trust the person next to you at a show?

MOLLIE: Well, it’s kinda what I was saying earlier: None of us could do anything without a group of people getting our backs. I think the trouble you get into now is that as local scenes are broken down in favor of the internet and that sort of externally focused, constant self-branding and -curating, you don’t always know the specific politics or personal values of any person interacting with you. With both Casey and I being so political and coming from riot grrrl and hardcore, that can be sort of tough to reconcile. Not to get all Baudrillard or Unabomber on you, but technology and social media have essentially turned us all into constructs. I don’t know what you believe. I don’t your values. I only know what you’ve chosen to select as your particular brand. And in some cases,  that’s totally fine. I mean, education and understanding starts with allowing multiple voices to speak their own truths. But when those truths stop being truths and start being branding messages, that’s when it gets tricky. That’s when it’s complicated knowing whether to trust someone. And I think that trust is really important; if you spent your high school years calling girls like me a slut and guys like Casey a faggot, and identify with electronic music now because it’s an extension of that bro-culture — even if we like the same producers, man, I’m sorry, I just can’t relate to you. Your shit has nothing to do with me. And I’m not so egotistical and ambitious that I’ll play a party founded on a basis of, like, rape jokes and cultural homogeny just because I want someone to see my name or respect me as a DJ. I just can’t get down with it.

LA: It seems to me that some groups of people are able to trust each other in our scene, but people in marginalized positions are left out. Do you think minority groups inadvertently become collateral damage in how we organize and promote shows in Columbus?

CASEY: I’m not sure how much as a straight, white dude I want to speak for any of those groups, cause obviously, that’s just as problematic some ways. Or at least, I don’t want to address this in such a way that it seems like I’m trying to speak for anyone who’s experience I haven’t had directly. But there are definitely areas where things can seem a bit alienating. I don’t wanna say it’s down to how some giant collective “we” organize across the board, because I feel like there are people out there, Scotty Niemet for instance, who are super conscious about access and inclusiveness. In general of course, that’s less of the rule than the exception. I still see tons of events promoted from this ridiculous kinda bro-centric standpoint, from ridiculous bikini girl flyers, to event descriptions that are directly addressing only straight dudes, or even big room events that push very specific themes of class and economic status. In some ways you can look at it as a function of not so much marketing towards specific demographics but as a part of the fantasy that someone is intending to create with an event. I’m not saying I have any problem at all with elements of fantasy or escapism either in event promotion, or in the actual events themselves. Not only is that something we personally use quite freely, but I think it’s an integral part of dance music creation and of the events themselves. And that includes the creation of an atmosphere that can be strongly sexual at times. However, I think it gets difficult when the world one is trying to create gets either exclusionary or downright threatening to substantial portions of your potential audience. This can get hard to discuss without an endless litany of caveats, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t even come down to having to go out of your way to being open and inclusive, it should just be a matter of being responsive to the perspectives and reactions you’re garnering. In other words, you can have an event where the promotion, or even the atmosphere is in some ways straight up sexual, but if you’re doing it in such a way that there are people who are generally open and comfortable with sexuality who find what you’re doing threatening or uncomfortable, then you either have to start questioning your own concepts of what “sexual” mean, or you gotta start looking at your own ability to execute your vision successfully. Likewise, if the only way you can think to create a “professional” or “exotic” atmosphere is to put up a bunch of Louis Vuitton monographs, then you gotta either look at how you view fashion in relation to economic class, or you need to realize that you have fucking terrible, boring taste in fashion and don’t understand that there does in fact exist things that are stylish that aren’t also symbols of crass consumerism and status symbols for the ostentatiously wealthy. You can say the same for a myriad of other things, not just related to gender, sexuality or class, but racism, xenophobia, imperialism, etc… Humans have a pretty unlimited capacity when it comes to being dickheads.

Let’s look at all of that far more directly. First off, the electronic and dance music scenes in Columbus have been relatively small for a while. If you’re into that stuff, chances are you’re actively looking for events to go to, and get pretty excited when you see something that is at all related to that universe. Anyone promoting events is fundamentally doing it to a crowd that’s overwhelmingly friendly, open and eager to give the benefit of the doubt (well unless you’re talking about cover charges, but that’s a whole other enormous issue, and I’m on the side of most promoters with that one). No one is demanding that you meet a set of criteria written out by Andrea Dworkin working on the most pedantic day of her life. We want to find places where we can go and have a really good time without worrying about the shit we carry around the rest of our lives, and we’re really, really ready to assume that’s what your intentions are to create. Secondly, threat, discomfort and the general sense of being grossed the fuck out by something all come from prior experience. It’s a pretty Pavlovian set of reactions. And if you were to plot it out on a graph, you’d find that it’s directly proportional to, on one axis, intensity of the previous experience, and on the other axis, strength of association with things previously seen or lived. Humans are pretty simple that way. So it’s actually a pretty fucking specific kind of test you have to be failing to be alienating or offending anyone, or otherwise getting a strong negative reaction from multiple people in the way you promote or create events. First of all, you’ve got to be putting off something related to people’s prior experience. I mean, right there, you’re doing it fucking all wrong already. You’re already using some pretty trite, completely boring, uncreative reference points to begin with. Then, if those reference points people have seen a thousand times before are eliciting a strong negative response from multiple people, not only is it something that people have had less than positive experiences with, but they’re something that some people have had a really, really unpleasant history with. And in that case, then anyone who is reacting positively to it, is either completely oblivious to the lives of other people, or actively gets enjoyment from shit that makes other people suffer. In either case, the only people you’re pleasing are assholes. Not only do you have to be particularly uncreative, but you also have to not have the good sense to realize not to attempt to compensate for your lack of inventiveness by choosing super charged imagery. In any event I have zero sympathy for your boring, offensive ass.

LA: How do you think we can foster trust between all races, genders, sexualities, classes, and other divisions at shows and in our scene?

CASEY: Again, like I said, 99% of the time it’s not really that hard. People want to have a positive experience. Listen, we’ve all been dumbasses. Especially someone like me, who grew up a straight white male, in a seriously misogynistic, homophobic religious environment. Even meaning well, I had (and certainly still have) some pretty internalized fucked up viewpoints and reactions to things. Privilege and isolation make you pretty oblivious to other’s experiences… And to be totally fair, it’s hard to completely fault someone for being less immediately aware of suffering that doesn’t directly affect them then someone else who has to live that every day. And to some extent, in this society there are few, if any, of us who can really say that we’re not owners of some sort of privilege, even if we can consider ourselves oppressed on another level. In other words, our personal experiences and observations all contain some knowledge that a lot of other people may not have, and we are all ignorant to the experiences of others. With that in mind, so much comes down to basic interpersonal dialogue, and willingness on every side to make that dialogue happen. Most people who have gotten over biases, internalized prejudices, etc… have done so largely by being in situations where they said or did something problematic and had someone close to them there to say “yeah, that’s not ok, and here’s why”. For that to work though both sides have to be willing to not only have that conversation, but to have it on even terms. I think one of the other lessons I learned from growing up in hardcore was that a serious backlash against “PC” or whatever (though I hate that term so much), only really happened when things became about public “call outs” and using ideals for interpersonal and scene power plays, instead of as a means of further fostering learning and comfort for everyone. Being willing to listen with respect requires a loss of personal ego, and so does being willing to educate with respect. I think there is a difference now in that ego is almost taken for granted, and people aren’t as willing to admit ignorance to ANYTHING when they can jump online and feel like experts by reading the first sentence of each paragraph of a Wikipedia article, but I do also feel like once your ego gets you in trouble a couple of times you learn pretty quickly to actually listen. It’s like any other activism, you can try to win people over issue by issue as much as you want, but once you really start focusing on getting people to see each other as valid individuals, then the other stuff falls together way more easily.

NVR MND FUN FUN FUN Mix

Over the summer we did a t-shirt collab with NVR MND, and to go along with it we did a mix of techno, house and dance tracks from 1989-1994. Lots of classic tracks that anymore I tend to listen to here and there, but rarely all together in one group. But pulling all these tracks at once, I was reminded of just how focused on politics and social issues the early rave scene really was. The past two or three years there’s been a revival of lots of the aesthetics of that era, and along with baggy tie-dye and yin-yangs, you’ve suddenly started seeing people talk about “PLUR-vibes” all over the place, but so far only as a callback to that era. It is important to remember that so much of what we do really was based on that notion of “peace, love, unity and respect”, and that if we want these parties and events to be really free and without all sorts of constraints, you really have to start with that attitude of mutual respect for everyone around you. It’s actually a very natural place for dance music to be. I mean, the music itself is a combination of so many diverse elements and cultural reference points, and the paths that find people getting into the culture of dance music are so insanely varied, that it’s only natural that once we start paying attention to each other we can’t help but be confronted with experiences and ideas that are truly new to all of us. It’s just a matter of letting go of your ego enough to learn from it.

LA: Switching gears to explore your views on your art, what is your definition of success for your music? Put another way, what do each of you hope to achieve with your art?

CASEY: For me it’s really nothing more complicated than just making something I actually like. Something I’d want to listen to. At any given moment there might be a detailed answer, but ultimately that’s what it comes down to, and it’s honestly a tall enough order to keep me working hard pretty constantly. When it comes to individual things there might be some more explicit goal, but there’s not one giant sweeping agenda, or even career path that I ever have in mind for anything. I think that music is too all encompassing for something like that. It’s just a matter of at any given moment taking whatever I’m inspired by, interested in or feeling strongly about otherwise and responding to that in a way that produces something I like.  For better or worse, I’m not one of those people who babies their work once they’re done with it. I never really feel that, no matter how much I might like something I do, I have to accomplish XYZ with it, and it has to be then put in glass to be gazed upon for all time. Sure I want people to hear our stuff, and I’d love to be at the point where we’re doing enough with our work that I don’t have to have a day job to support making music, but beyond that, when something is done I’m almost always just interested in whatever I’m going to make next. So I guess that’s the best answer, success is whatever keeps me making things I like for as long as possible. In a weird way, now that there’s no longer a really solid model for revenue generation without music, it’s almost easier to keep that at front and center. We all know that in terms of business we have to make it up as we go anyway, and that actually gives you a freedom to focus on doing things in a way that keeps you inspired.

LA: This raises an interesting issue I have thought a lot about. Today, we have so many platforms for DIY music sharing and scene building. Yet, it seems harder to break through the white noise of hype and find a meaningful metric of success for music projects. Do you think we have lost anything in the social media revolution? Was easier to create and share music before?

MOLLIE: I think we’ve both lost and gained. I did an interview probably 10 years ago, and a similar question came up: How has the internet affected your ability to not only make music, but be a musician? And my answer then was only slightly different than it will be now: It’s been, and always will be, both blessing and curse.

On the one hand, music sharing and scene building are soulmates with current technology. From the early 2000s to now, some of the most valuable connections I’ve made have been internet-based. We’re able to create almost labyrinthine communities of people all over the world, and stay in constant contact with them. We can stream live shows from our bedroom. We can make a song and get it to you 20 minutes. We can interact and react, real time, every day. Our closest friends can dot the continents, but we’re as close as if they were right here. The discovery is endless, and that idea is incredibly exciting.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s too much. Being able to interact and disseminate content on a minute-to-minute basis isn’t necessarily good for art. Since everyone else is creating new stuff on the constant — and, consequently, choking up social media to the point that we don’t notice anything — there’s this social pressure to always have fresh material, always have something share, always be on the cusp of whatever is happening. And in order to make solid, inspired music, you need time to think. You need time to try things. You need time to be. The constant Herculean force of social media doesn’t allow for that, if you get yourself too deep into it, because the minute you stop publicly moving forward, the minute people forget. Thank Facebook algorithms for that. 

The other issue goes back to my whole thing with external perception and branding. For one, when you’re constantly sharing new content, you’re constantly getting feedback. Sometimes that’s great; it can help you define what you’re trying to do or hear things through another set of ears. But think of it in terms of, like, a Creative Writing MFA. One of the greatest complaints about those programs is that the workshops, however valuable, cajole the art out of artists and streamline unique voices into one big mass of same-sounding literary fiction. This happens with music too. It’s not malicious, it just…happens. What gets chosen by any tastemaker is almost always what feels familiar to them, or in the case of music blogs, what’ll boost page views. Publications have always been that way, but now those judgments are instant. You’re judged before you’ve even had a chance to judge yourself. So when you’re sharing new things and getting into this endless feedback loop, you stop hearing your songs through your ears — you hear them through everyone else’s, simply because it’s seems like the only way to get enough people to notice that it cuts through the white noise. The medium becomes the message. And that’s no way to make song. It’s miserable. It’s impossible.

And similarly, because of this, we’re all marketing experts now. Various sharing platforms and social media sites have allowed us access to metrics so we can deepen that expertise. So we’re not just judging that work based on literal feedback we’re getting — we’re judging it based on a set of metrics that, to be honest, any legit marketing professional will tell you are complete folly when it comes to art. You stop creating based on what you like and focus on how many Soundcloud plays a certain type of track gets, what your CTR is for an ad on Facebook, how many likes a particular post generates, how much engagement you can force through Twitter. While that can all be helpful for people eventually, it’s simply not helpful when you’re trying to figure yourself out as an artist. It’s not reality. It does not, in almost every case, accurately display public engagement or future sales. There’s just too many variables at play, not least of which is how people are getting your music in the first place. 5,000 Soundcloud plays doesn’t translate to true real-world interest always; it translates to your efficacy with that particular platform. And I don’t know what the solution to any of this is…only that it keeps too many solid artists concerned with arbitrary metrics that somehow convince them that they’re not good enough…or worse, that they can tour on those 5,000 Soundcloud plays and see a similar real-world response. It just doesn’t always translate that way. But then we get into a question of, what is the current reality: real world or internet metrics? How do we define success: money or plays? What does anything mean? And I can’t even begin to answer that.

There’s also something to be said for the self-serving nature of all of this. How many people comment on someone’s Soundcloud track not because they legitimately like it, but because they want other people to notice their page? How many artists share another artist’s track in hopes the original artist will notice them? Certainly we’ve all done those things. Certainly we’re all strategic and savvy in that way. Hopefully, more often than not it comes from a genuine place and can forge genuine connections. But…how can we be sure? Social media ultimately serves no one but ourselves. I can’t remember who said it, but I read some pithy little observation that the most interesting word to every human is ‘I’. If you break it down, get real honest about it — in terms of yourself, too, because none of us escape this tendency, not really — then it leads to a lot of skepticism with social media. Why are you throwing shit into the Twitter ether, if not to have the mirror shone back at you, if not to be validated by other people’s interest in you? I’m no better. We all do it. I’m just trying to be real fucking honest about it and wish more people would.

I’m getting particularly verbose with this question, but I can tell you this: I liked it better when I had only Myspace plays and show attendance to guide me. I liked it better when the numbers were secondary to the artists, at least at first. You didn’t worry as much, and people were generally more willing to take a chance on new bands because they weren’t deterred by their only having, like, 250 Facebook likes. You just made your stuff and hoped for the best. You interacted with people with slightly less self-consciousness. Or maybe that was just me. I don’t know. But if you don’t think Baudrillard, Foucault and McLuhan had it right all along…well, I’d like to live in your world for awhile, because I can’t stop thinking this is all about to explode into some epic demise wherein art and inspiration is so devalued, the best of us just give up trying.

LA: Your most recent Hypermotion EP is the first extended release that showcases the most recent articulation of the FUNERALS sound. How did you get to this point creatively with the FUNERALS sound?

Casey: Really just letting go. We’ve been at this long enough on various levels that when we sit down with a project it’s really automatic to go at it from the standpoint that we’re doing this as part of a predefined concept. When you’re just starting making music, it’s really easy to let it happen and have whatever you’re putting out be your sound, I think because you look at your abilities and goals in a much more narrow sort of way. When you learn what you’re doing more and more, and start to see music as the thing you’re going to be doing, it’s easy to get into a thing where ironically the expansion of possibilities puts limits on each new project or work you attempt. It becomes a thing where “this is my dark electronic project.” Or “this is my deep house project” or “my gamelan inspired minimal project”. I mean, it’s really, really easy to think in those terms, and to then be working from the idea that every track has to sound a certain way to fit in with what you’re attempting, and everything else is just for some future project or release. Those limitations can definitely be healthy and helpful at times, but it’s very easy to get so focused on them that you’re not really just getting excited by sound and reacting. The biggest change with this last release, and with a lot of the remixes and mixes we’ve been doing lately, is that we’ve really taken a step back and said “fuck it, let’s just have fun”. We don’t want to be all over the place in terms of sound, but we’re just letting the cohesion come out a lot more instinctively from the natural tendencies we have as musicians, and from what is musically and creatively exciting us at the moment. Some of that definitely comes from a certain level of confidence in the production as well. It’s easy with electronic music to get very intimidated by the pressures of producing something that’s really accomplished technically speaking, and again, that I think can make you afraid to fully let go and just let things happen as they want to. I think there have been times in the past where you could hear the struggle coming through in tracks. Maybe other people couldn’t hear it, but I know we certainly could anyway, and I think that we’re at a point right now where the fluidity that comes from really enjoying what you’re doing is back in the sound, and I think it’s shaped where we are more than any other element.

LA: You often discuss how your recordings and live sets are able to provide an escape for listeners to another place. Where do you think your most recent sound takes listeners?

CASEY: Our standard joke answer is usually “to the place where all their drugs have just started to kick in”.  That said, I think it’s actually hard to describe a singular place. We prefer the vague notion of “somewhere else”. I mean, if we’re trying to make a track with 4am in Beirut in mind, that really does nothing for someone that actually IS at a club in Beirut at 4am. Not to mention, when you try and get too detailed with evoking a singular place, the only place that usually gets evoked is the Starbucks in your local Barnes & Noble. Besides, we tend to use tons of reference points all over the place, almost as shortcuts to certain atmospheres and feelings. That said, I think we were thinking a lot about an almost cartoon version of 90s house and techno with a lot of Hypermotion. But that almost worked more like a more literal version of Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Kind of an arbitrary point for starting off or switching gears. Like, there’s a spot on the record where we go from beats built around samples from Polynesian drums into a sudden amen break, and it’s such a 90s thing to do, but the effect I think is way fuzzier than that. You get a hint of it, but it’s vague enough for someone to put onto it whatever they want it to be at that moment. There’s a lot of sonic density in parts of Hypermotion that really has to do with wanting to blur atmospheres together without making anything so totally overt. In it’s way that’s one of the really, really nice things about working for the dancefloor, because those atmosphere’s and environments get superimposed on so many arbitrary contexts, and do so in such real time that it’s really about taking wherever you are, and just twisting it into something else. Making a warehouse feel a bit greyer and smokier. Making you a little less aware of what time it is or the fact that you’re going to have to go home eventually. Differences in rooms alone make certain things pop and mute other elements. Add in specifics of place, and potentially altered states of consciousness, and the result is maybe more of a momentary Rorschach Test than anything else.  For me personally, it’s also a little hard to answer that question once something is finished, because I’m so instantly on to whatever we’re working on next, so things become really colored in my mind by how my perspective has shifted. I feel like we’ve thought a lot more about warehouse reverb and tribal beats lately, but that’s not really as prominent in where we were a few months ago as I might think now, so I don’t know.

LA: Mollie, how has the Hemingway Quote, “All you have to do is write one true sentence” influenced your creation of music?

MOLLIE: Oh man. I love this. Can you call this piece The Local Autonomy Interview Wherein Mollie Wells Gets To Be A Pedantic Intellectual? Please? Ha!

I feel like I need to preface this by saying I’m not a Hemingway devotee. There’s a connotation to that cliche that just doesn’t jibe with my worldview, but I recently read the original A Moveable Feast (before the newer, more fiercely edited version) and was really struck by this idea. That all art starts with one true thing. Truth, for me, in this context, is work that isn’t externally focused or compromised. Something in which you don’t notice the presence of the artist; you’re not paying to the man behind the curtain. You’re experiencing the thing for the thing, completely unaware of how the thing came to be.

The idea, basically, is this: If art both forces you into and takes you out of yourself, you (as the consumer, not the artist) need to be the only person present in the exchange for that moment. Do you know what I mean? The reason I hate Philip Roth is that he Philip Roths all over everything. I’m always aware that I’m reading him; he never steps away long enough for me to relate to what he’s trying to say. Musically, I feel the same way about commercial American dubstep. So many of those producers are too self-obsessed to do anything but throw a dozen signature markers on one track, so all I hear is the effort they made, not the song itself.

Anyway, it’s a weird impetus to put on dance music, but I think it’s valid. When you think of your favorite producer, of the first experience you had with them, it’s never that you thought “God, I love how much I can tell this is Dubbel Dutch!” Maybe later you think that, on your fourth or fifth listen, you start catching those cues and hearing how the song works on a technical level. But your first reaction to your favorite song is always visceral. You react to the inherent something about it, whatever that something is. It’s like the artist said “Here, you listen to this, I’m gonna grab a drink, I’ll come back when you’re through and we’ll chat.” You know? I mention Dubbel Dutch specifically, because I had that experience with “Throwback”. It’s a very Dubbel Dutch track, I mean the thing sounds so much like him, but when I first heard it, all I could think about was how I wanted to hear it again. It made me purely, unequivocally happy, and in that moment, I didn’t give a fuck who wrote it or how it worked. I just wanted to hear it one more.

And all of that, I think, starts with one true thing. It’s making a beat or melody or sound or whatever that feels so utterly right by no one’s standards but your own. It’s creating something that forges an emotional connection but does do by earning it, not by tugging at sentimentality or some preconceived emotional idea. I try really hard to erase the effort from everything I create. I’m not always successful. In fact, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve successfully started with the one true “sentence” — or if I have, I’ve fucked up the authenticity by the time the song is done. But if I wake up every morning with that goal, to just get one true whatever out of my head, then I’ve at least succeeded in that moment. The next goal becomes keeping it true. I’ll let you know when I get there.

(For the record, I now have Amerie’s “One Thing” in my head, and the sudden urge to watch that shitty Meryl Streep movie.)

LA: Casey, are there any artists or ideas that have shaped your views on the creation of music? Who or what are they and what affect do they have?

CASEY: I’ll try to answer this really, really quickly without thinking too much, because anytime you start thinking in terms of influences, it’s gonna open the floodgates. Going with whatever pops into my head first is probably gonna be most accurate anyway. My whole life I’ve loved Erik Satie, and a lot of the themes of both his work, and how he actually worked, seem to carry through to everything else I like. Like pretty much everyone else on earth, I gravitate towards his early piano stuff. Aside from how obviously atmospheric his work was, there’s something that’s always gotten me about how he combines simple repetition with these elongated melodic lines that manage create this incredible movement without you being able to pin down what exactly it is that’s causing things to shift. It’s only when you really sit down and try to play it that you realize how much every single note is actually doing, and how much you can accomplish simply by occasionally having a note or chord be just a tiny bit off. Joy Division were another huge, huge one for me when I was younger for a lot of the same reasons. The first time I heard Unknown Pleasures when I was 13 they became my favorite band instantly. A few months later I heard Closer for the first time, and whereas Unknown Pleasures had appealed to me because it sounded like a lot of what was already in my head, Closer really shocked me. I remember thinking at the time that it sounded like someone wrote these fully formed songs based around standard chord progressions and bass parts, added a bunch of accents and fills and things, and then removed the original chord progression and bass line, and just left you with all those extra bits standing on their own. Just accents and atmosphere with no skeleton to support them. That’s actually a huge thing that’s really had a massive effect on the way I’ve viewed making music ever since. I just really love that concept of taking out the backbone of a song, and letting everything just hang on the remaining scraps. 

If you need more FUNERALS you can hook up with them on these fine social media outlets:

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Hey all, Its been a minute. I am back with another post to get you jump-started for a new release coming out of local Columbus Techno label Orange82/Absoloop Records by Chance McDermott on October 31st. Chance may need a bit of an introduction to people in our scene, but he is well known in the international techno community. He has releases out on labels like Etichetta Nera, Panel Trax, Black Nation Records, Mechanisms Industries, among others.  He was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan halfway between Detroit and Chicago (the birthplaces of techno and house music) growing up listening to radio hot mix tapes from the motor city and chi-town. Chance started creating his own sound, a unique style of Detroit minimal funky techno with a Chicago dark soulful sound of house.

His new EP Righteous Indignation moves his sound and the themes he explores in a new direction. The EP is headed by a single called “I’ve Have Enough” that has received the support of the likes of Claude Young, Myles Sergé Clark, Anthony “Shake” Shakir, and many others.

I frankly think the track and the rest of the EP is great. Its perfect for the election cycle we are all immersed in. This made me want to contact Chance and get some more info on him and his work. Enjoy hearing from Chance in his own words!

LA: How did you get your start producing?

CM: Back in the day I used to listen to mix tapes from Detroit and Chicago. I was fascinated by the sounds, rhythms, and beats. They took me to another place. Before long I bought my first drum machine, keyboard and sequencer. I was thinking I will play around with this equipment. I had no idea I would be producing techno that people would listen too around the world. I was just playing around and having fun. Then the sounds, rhythms, beat started coming together… BAM! Kalamazoo style techno producing had emerged.

LA: What is it about dance music that has kept you interested over the years?

CM: There are a few reasons why I have stayed interested in dance music. I find the best way to express myself is through music. I like the way my music has affected those that listen to it. It’s always a rewarding feeling when someone emails me to just say how much they like the trax or for support. I really enjoy the energy that comes from producing. There is great satisfaction when I’ve completed a trax or remix. Someone gives you positive feedback about your work and it keeps you going. Also, my music has inspired other producers in forming their craft as well; it’s all about giving back.

LA: Do you consider what you do an artform? Why or why not?

CM: Yes, definitely an art form. Compare it to someone who paints a portrait. They start out with a blank canvas, and by combining different paints it transforms the canvas into colors that create a beautiful masterpiece. Techno producing is the same. You start out with drum machines, keyboards, or computers- the “canvas.” Mix the “colors” or sounds from the machines and you create electronic works of art. It is an enlightening experience. “We are the music makers, the dreamers, the story tellers.”

LA: Vocal samples play a role in two of the tracks on your Absoloop Righteous Indignation Release. What role do vocal samples play in your track creation? What were you trying to achieve with the vocal samples in the Righteous Indignation EP?

CM: The roles of vocal samples on this EP tell a story. I chose this title, Righteous Indignation, for a reason. I’m angry about what’s going on in our country and the world. There’s too much mistreatment, oppression and darkness. If we want to continue forward we need to soul search to figure out how far we are willing to let this go. How much will we take before we say I’ve had enough? We have to transform ourselves so we will not be conformed to this world.

LA: In our correspondence, you said that you were trying out a new production approach with the Righteous Indignation EP. Can you describe for us what that new approach was and how that differed from your old formula?

CM: My new approach is the concept of what I’m doing. It’s my ministry through the music. I’m trying to have the titles now reflect my faith- what I believe and stand for. I’m a new creature in Christ. It’s my responsibility to tell others that I’m a born again Christian and spread the good news. If I can plant a seed in someone’s heart, Jesus will water it. He will change your life. He wants the best for his children. We reap what we sow; later than we sow, more than we sow. It can be good or bad. I want to sow well so I can reap well.

LA: Since your from Kalamazoo, I am sure many people ask you how the legacy of Chicago & Detroit has impacted you as a musician. I want to go in another direction with this stock question. Was it difficult finding your own voice and your own sound as a musician with two huge music communities like that near you?

CM: I would have to say no. Coming from Kalamazoo we are right in the middle between those two legendary cities. I have definitely been inspired from those towns. My sound is a hybrid of Detroit and Chicago- taking elements from them both creating a style of sometimes funky, minimal, deep, experimental techno. I’ve said this before- I make music the only way I know how…from the heart. I put my emotion, passion, sweat, tears into it. I don’t make techno for the money it’s my labor of love.

Check out the Righteous Indignation EP on Amazon and pick it up on October 31.

So today I am trying something new. I am reaching outside the boundaries of our city to feature an artist whose work I am listening to a lot. This doesn’t mean I am abandoning our community or leaving the idea of “Local” behind. Quite the contrary, I think since we are so informed and shaped by the music we listen to I figured I would give you a glimpse into what I am digging at the moment by getting an artist to do an interview and throw down a mix for our community.

I first heard Penélope Martin’s collaborative work under the moniker ArD2 (a collaboration with Ekis) on the Myles Sergé Radio Show (6one6, Re(form), Space). Sergé (Or Plural or FBK who were guest DJ’ing with Sergé that night) played the Heinrich Mueller (alias of Gerald Donald of Drexciya and Dopplereffekt) remix of their track “Inside the Rock”.

I was instantly hooked.  I loved the remix, but I enjoyed the rest of the “2084” Album even more (You can stream & purchase the 2084 album on the Frigio Bandcamp). The work was dark, haunting, and provided a sonic backdrop for a dystopian future that seemed all to relevant for the Sci-Fi times we all live in.

After enjoying this initial offering, I delved into her back catalogue. I was again impressed by her work with the Zwischenwelt project. Zwischenwelt was the collective name given to the collaborations of Martin, Susana Correira, and Beta Evers. The three worked together to create an album, under the guidance of Gerald Donald, entitled “Paranormale Aktivität”.

It was a CD/vinyl release on Rephlex Records that featured 13 wonderful tracks exploring the depths of the paranormal in our lives. The release really resonated with me. I often just let it float in the background of my daily activities while I am writing and reading. Its provides a nice sonic companion to get you through the long hours spent doing whatever it is that you do.

These experiences prompted me to ask her some questions about her craft and get her to create something for the Local Autonomy Project.  What she sent me was beyond what I could have imagined. She did an interview and created a great mix called “Agharta”. I have had the mix on steady repeat since I got it. In an age where mixes are so disposable, she has created an enduring piece of work that I will be going back to again and again. It really helps also that she elaborates on some of her background as well in the interview. I hope you enjoy the mix & the short interview she did with me below.

Local Autonomy: How did you get into dance music?
Penélope Martin: As a child I liked to listen to my father’s tapes while we were in the car. He used to play everything, from Rock music to Kafwerk. I remember feeling the futuristic sound of Krafwerk more than guitars and stuff like that. A few years later, when I was curious enough to find my own music I found myself playing records with heavy synth lines and electronics beats. Then it came DJing and after that production. So I guess everything came naturally.

LA: When did you get your start DJ’ing and producing?
PM: I stared Djing in the early 90’s, at first it was a good excuse to hang around with friends, then I got more serious and started recording mix tapes and getting gigs locally.
Production came a bit later; I got myself a Mac computer and a copy of Logic. Lots and lots of hours later I managed to learn production and started to make songs.

LA: What has it been like being a woman in a very male-centered music genre?
PM: It’s been OK; I seldom found being a female a problem to work with other producers. It’s better to let the music speaks by itself, but if someone that liked my music wouldn’t want to work with me because of my gender, I would think that this person has a huge insecurity problem.

LA: How did ArD2 get started?
PM: It was while I lived in Brighton, me and Ekis were living and making music together, so we decided to team up and created ArD2. Then Desh joined the crew and we started to develop the sound and concept collectively.

LA: It seems that much of your work with ArD2 & Zwischenwelt deals with issues of futurism, power, and resistance. What makes you interested in these ideas?
PM: Futurism’s always fascinated me; I love the idea of having robots at home actually living and interacting with you. And with power and resistance it’s just that sometimes I get tired of the media trying to manipulate us, treating us like we were idiots.

LA: What themes/ideas/emotions were you exploring with this mix?
PM: I was looking for a laid back feel, something more relaxed, I picture the listener listening to the mix while doing something else. Like background music. By the way, the very first track of this mix is an unreleased track produced by myself. Hope you enjoy the journey…

For More of Penélope Martin’s Work & for Updates:

https://www.facebook.com/penelopemartin.1 
Penelope-Martin 
http://www.ard2music.com 
http://www.myspace.com/zwischenwelt 

This is my 100th post on Local Autonomy. I have been covering dance/electronic/experimental music in our city for almost a year. I could get all sentimental and wishy-washy–emotional is the operative term for the repertoire of such actions. Alas, I will save those feelings for closer to the one year anniversary in November.  Instead, I will funnel all of my feelings into featuring the thoughts and work of Columbus-based noise/experimental artist Mike Shiflet.

Shiflet has been making music in and around Columbus for over 12 years, and ran a record label called GMBY that released over 100 albums. I think his music and his live performances are some of the most powerful I have encountered in our city. Yet, Shiflet’s music defies easy characterization. I loosely describe his work to people as noise and experimental. He describes it to people unfamiliar with noise/experimental music as ambient punk or mangled new age (he talks about that a little more below). Yet, I really wonder what good such characterizations of his music are? In my discussions with Shiflet, he too questioned their utility when describing his work.  Who really cares what you call the music right? All that matters is that at the core of Shiflet’s music is a curiosity to explore what it means to be human in the 21st century. I feel we need more music like Shiflet’s that is willing to take risks, test your preconceptions of what music is, and help you explore the possibilities of different forms of music. I know every time I listen to his albums the world seems to slow down for a bit, I can breath a bit easier, and I can get lost in the waves of distortion and simple melodies. That seems to be pretty important today when it is pretty hard to slow down. My hope is that you too can take some time out of your day to read his thoughts, listen to his two recent albums “Merciless” & “Sufferers” released on Type Records (One of my favorite labels now), and check out his other work on his bandcamp (I suggest llanos–Its pretty great). Enjoy.

Merciless:

Sufferers:

Local Autonomy (LA):You have been creating what is loosely termed “noise” music for some time now. What attracted you to this form of music?
Mike Shiflet (MS): I had a discussion with friend and tourmate Jason Zeh earlier this summer about what we ultimately coined the positive dissatisfaction at the root of our interest in noise. The only way to find experimental music is to seek it out and the people who do that are doing so because they aren’t fulfilled by what they are hearing elsewhere. This definitely applies to myself and I have a feeling it is pretty much universal. I wasn’t bored or unhappy with the music I was finding elsewhere – in fact, I hold the indie rock of the 1990’s in the highest regard – but I couldn’t help myself from seeking out forms of expression that were more free and more unique. That dissatisfaction is a deeply embedded character trait that I still see in myself and most of my peers. I think it’s why you see so many of us exploring various niche genres, delving deep into arcane ethic music and so forth.


(Mike Shiflet & Jeff Central at the Gallery/Performance Space It Looks Like It’s Open On East Tulane)

LA: What inspired you to start making music and getting involved with the local noise scene in Columbus?
MS: I arrived here at just the right time in the summer of 2000 when the Madlab theater downtown started hosting shows on a regular basis. To the best of my knowledge it was the first time in the city that these types of shows were happening on a regular basis in a steady environment. The scene was much smaller then, but Madlab brought all of the unique experimental music personalities out of the woodwork. Meeting, listening to, and performing with people like David Reed, Larry Marotta, Mark Gunderson and Rocco DiPietro (to name just a few) so early on in my time here definitely helped shape me as an artist and a person. Having that go-to venue made it much easier for us to come together creatively. It also laid the foundation and prepared me for when the scene grew exponentially in places like BLD and Skylab a few years later and we started bringing more and more touring acts through town.

LA: You often describe your music to those who aren’t familiar with it as Ambient Punk. Why is that?
MS: Well, I tend to use that term when talking with people who aren’t familiar with experimental music whatsoever. There are plenty of other descriptors I would use with people in the know. I started using it after NPR published a feature on me a while back and the link was circulated around my workplace. I had several co-workers with zero points of reference approaching me about my work and I found that punk ambient combined two fairly universal terms that almost everyone understood. I don’t find it entirely accurate – mangled new age might be more appropriate – but it is strong enough to leave an impression on the uninitiated and hopefully pique their curiosity.

LA: This seems to connect with your goal to keep simple melodies in your music. Why is this important to you?
MS: It’s a part of who I am and a part I want to share. After several years creating noise, I settled down and finally came to place where I felt that I was truly projecting instead of being reactionary with my work. Not long after that, I became comfortable enough to start incorporating the musical elements I had in my head. I’ve described that process as being the opposite of noise rock. Acts in that realm are distorting and manipulating accepted musical forms. Conversely, my goal is to coerce some kind of structure out of a swirling mass of chaos. Keeping the melodies simple has been more necessity than desire to this point. I need the sounds to be easy to mold and able to fit within the larger, noisier structures so I’ve taken it slowly as I gradually work in more complex music.

(Mike Shiflet & Sven Khans at It Looks Like It’s Open)

LA: We talked a bit about how you like to take a long-term historical approach to music making. Why is artistic longevity so important to you as an artist?
MS: This was a byproduct of a couple different things. I’ve been doing this almost half of life now and when I was younger I had several ‘next year’ years where I felt I was on the brink of achieving a certain level of success. I watched a lot of friends get flown overseas and perform at large festivals during the noise boom in the first half of the last decade and honestly felt jealous not to be there alongside them. At the same time every single year I was getting turned on to more and more artists from decades past whose work had eluded me, many of whom were still active. So rather than brood about the events of the day, I opted to look to artists like Elaine Radigue and Henri Chopin, who developed their work over decades, for inspiration. I now feel a bit foolish about the feelings I had at the time, but I’m glad they helped me attain this perspective.

LA:In your branch of the music universe, releases come out in cassettes, CDs, and digitally. How do you decide what music you create goes onto each format?
MS: I try to start each project without a format or destination in mind and let the material tell me where it should go as they take form. The things that end up on cassettes and CDRs are progress reports and sketches of sort. They are usually fully formed works, but might be lacking that certain something to earn a spot on a full length CD or LP. Which isn’t to say they are scraps – this decision is usually made after the recording, which can take months, is done. On the web I will usually post all matter of material: live works, skeletal tracks, improvisations; the things I definitely wouldn’t want to charge people to hear. And then I try to cherry pick the best material for the CDs and vinyl. The Llanos CD actually came about very quickly when I realized material that had been set aside for a few cassettes and a web release would actually work better in a cohesive album format. Of course it’s all guess work, but I want the best material on the formats that will reach the widest audiences.

LA: You have released two Albums on Type Records: Merciless (2012) & Sufferers (2011). You told me that you think they are an excellent model for record labels and for the music industry in general. Why?
MS: Type has fully embraced the duality of the music business. They treat the the records like artifacts and collector objects while simultaneously putting their entire catalog up on Soundcloud and making it available on their website. Everyone has authorized access to the music at their fingertips and the people who want high fidelity archival documents have access to those as well. It’s a great something-for-everyone approach.

Mike Shiflet Blog for Updates

Mike Shiflet Twitter

If you are around in our scene its hard not to know Aaron Austen. He has got his hands in a little bit of everything.  Whether he is putting on shows for his Production outfit Run614 or DJing, you can always find him trying to help people have a good time. He has got over a decade in the game here in Columbus, and he is still trying to push the envelope of our local shows. I hope you can take the time to read this interview, as he sheds some light on his history, how he thinks about putting on shows, and where he thinks we are going as a community. Enjoy!

Local Autonomy (LA): You have been involved in DJ’ing, organizing, and attending shows for a good part of your life. What is it about dance music that interests you so much?
Aaron Austen (AA): It is the way that people interact with the sound and can relate to certain noises that make them happy. People that listen to electronic music generally don’t always know who or what they’re listening to at the moment. It’s not so much like pop/radio music where commercialism repeats itself over and over. EDM to me is a truer form of what the music industry should be like. Producers get known usually for the music & most people can’t even put a face with their name. I think that is pretty kool. Music is meant to be heard, not seen. I think the general population of America has put that notion on hold over the years. The fact that image becomes more important than the music saddens me. You don’t look at music. You listen to it and, in turn, feel it as well.



LA: You cite your experiences in Columbus clubs in the mid 1990s as a key Ah Ha! moment that really inspired you to get more involved in the scene. Why was that era so special to you?
AA: When Mekka opened in ’95, it was a big moment for me. It was the biggest culture clash I have experienced still to this day. You had rich, poor black, white, gay, & straight all there to party together.  It didn’t matter what brands of clothes or shoes you were wearing. It was about a common interest of the music.

Then I went to DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) in ’02 and got bitten by the deeper, underground sound. I still didn’t really get it at that moment, but I saw something that really left an impression on me. Seeing thousands of people all getting crazy to the rhythmical pounding of Detroit Techno made me try to dive deeper into the music and helped me understand where I wanted to take the music that I play. It also made me think how I wanted people to experience my live sets so that we could be connected on the dance floor. This makes me try to craft an experience when I play that is less about playing the one track everyone knows, and more about the vibe of the set as a whole. I advise anyone who says they love EDM go to Detroit for Movement (DEMF) where it all started. You get such a deeper understanding from the roots.



LA: I get the sense that you approach DJ’ing as an artistic activity. I know there has been a lot of controversy of late in the DJ community about the artistic nature of DJ’ing. Why do you think DJ’ing is an artform?
AA: There are all kinds of forms of DJing/mixing. For me, the thing I love the most is the long mixes.   I love it when it is no longer just the one track playing and for a moment it becomes its own track bridging the two together seamlessly. Also, I feel that it creates a sway to the mix making and has more of a live, improvised feel. For those moments, the two tracks join to make the set unique.

When you have laptop DJs using effects to loop or delay tracks it just feels cold to me and loses my interest fairly quickly. For me, phrasing is a huge part to mixing that gets lost by the use of newer technologies.  Don’t get me wrong, there are the DJs out there than can fool my ear & do an amazing job, but they are few and far between.



LA: Switching gears to talk about your experiences with shows, How did you get your start putting on events?
AA: When I was living on E 13th on OSU campus, we used to throw an annual Disco party from“96-2000”. We literally had 14 kegs, 3 garbage cans of hairy buffalo, an ice luge, and a full bar for shots.

Our house would host over 2,000 guests (Most in full disco garb) throughout the night. The front yard, the house, & back parking lot would be packed. Needless to say, I had met a lot of people though these parties, and I found a way to turn those connections into a following.

So in ‘98 Jerry Calliste (AKA Hashim creator of the old school electro massive “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)”), had me put my people gathering skills to work at a seedy little afterhours joint called “The Alley” just off 5th and High in Pearl alley.  During this time, I also worked with Chad Allen of Purpose Productions, who threw the Revolution & Transformation parties in the late 90s. I started out being the the kid littering the city with flyers. I put in work & gained respect from the older promoters.    Over the years, things have just snowballed and I have taken the same approach to step up the ladder as they were presented.

LA: What drove you to go out on your own and start Super Good Events & Run614?
AA: I felt the music was getting stagnate. At the time, we were only using one bar and we were the only EDM game in town. Some shows were great there, but it felt like we were losing our edge by beating a dead horse. The crowd was shifting to a “be seen” crowd & the owners were pressuring the DJs to play music they normally wouldn’t choose to play. It was hard to convince the powers that be to try to build something rather than just riding the wave until it was beached. It was also tough because I knew that that the amazing local & regional talents we were bring in to open were better than the headlining acts. They just don’t have the money behind them to break out. My hopes are to bring a balance back to the taste makers of the area that are pushing the envelope musically.



LA: What is your philosophy when you are putting together events? In other words, what are you trying to achieve and what are some of the guidelines you use to put an event together?
AA: Location & sound! They are always the first things I check out. People don’t seem to wander off the beaten path so much anymore. Getting people out to experience something new is the hardest battle for a promoter like me. After the location is set, then I move on to the sound. I want people to hear the music the way it was intended to be heard. If you don’t have the correct amount of bass, especially for techno & house, it sounds flat & boring to people. I feel that not having a proper system here in Columbus, Such as a FUNKTION-ONE System, has limited these genres of music.

After sound come the smaller details such as capacity, programming, and booking. I like to keep it where you have room to be comfortable. I really dislike feeling like you are in a dead end & are stuck somewhere. I feel that many venue owners overlook where they bottle neck people & make it impossible to get around.  I focus on figuring out the flow of the location to prevent large crowds from having to stand around & wait just to get through a door. Programming is also really important. I always ask: What Music feels right for the spot?  There is nothing worse than walking into a room where the DJ is beating the hell out of the system playing bangers at 10-11 pm slot to a room of ten people. Programming & volume can make or break your event. There is also nothing worse than the DJ not seeing when the people are ready to dial it up a notch, which ends up flat-lining your night. In general, I always strive to make it as comfortable as possible for the target audience.


LA: You have worked in both large national production companies like Disco Productions and have attempted to help build an underground scene with Run614. In your opinion, what role do the underground and large promotion companies play in a healthy scene?
AA: Lets start with the larger style promotions. They are a necessity for the underground to survive. They are able to pull in the masses to increase exposure to the music. Here in town, PSG (Prime Social Group) is an amazing resource to get in touch with the younger age groups. It creates a trickle down effect to the underground. There are kids who are just there to party, and then there are the ones who love the music. The ones who love the music usually end up expanding their relationships with the music and what they listen to. They tend to search more for their personal sound. That is where I feel the Underground type of parties really benefit from the larger exposure of the national companies. There are a lot of really creative underground events happening by forward thinking people out there.  If you are looking for them  Squared or Push Productions are a good start.  It seems the more you focus on a sound/genre that the crowds begin to split into their respective sub-genre. I would also have to say I have noticed over the years the underground is an outlet to a more artistic minded type of crowd. Trying to capture their attention & hold it is a much harder battle to accomplish. It becomes about the experience as a whole. The really good underground events seem to be the ones that can program a cross promotion of multiple groups, and can set personal agendas and ego’s aside for a night.  


LA: We talked at length about how the Columbus scene is embedded within a larger economic system that we don’t often talk about. What are the limits and opportunities that money places on crafting dance music events in Columbus?
AA: It is a huge obstacle in Columbus. We all want to see world-class talent come through our city, but with world class talent comes world-class riders (contractual requirements). There are some pretty decent clubs in Columbus; however, other than some that are just catching on & getting closer, there isn’t a world class sound system in town. Having to add/rent sound everywhere kills your break even number and makes most mid-to-small sized shows lose money.  It is a trend here for clubs to open up on what will just get by for their night-to-night operations. They aren’t prepared for special event demands. Sound rental limits our market to doing the non-top 20 djs & ultimately keeps us from being able to do the up and coming acts. I would have to say that in my opinion it is the element that holds our city back from a true dance club culture like you might see in Chicago or even Detroit. We have to spend more as promoters to book talent and rent sound, so the ticket buyer has to spend more to attend the show. This prices many underground shows out of our market. People would rather party at home with their friends instead of feeling gouged at the door. 



Make sure to Check Aaron Austen out with special guest Seth Yender out of Detroit (Check out the samples on this recent-ish EP from him out of Beretta music) at The Social Room tonight for Niche. Event Details HERE.

Ten-Speed Guillotine, Cassette Culture, Exotica Music, Noise Music.

Have you heard of any of these before? Good question. I would be lying if I said I did before two or three months ago. Luckily,  my conversations with Jeff Chenault and countless others have opened my eyes to another world of sound in Columbus that was on a parallel, if not the same, trajectory as dance music in the 90s. Each of these bands, music scenes, or approaches to music creation or distribution had a formative influence on Jeff or on Columbus electronic music more generally. Thus, I think it is essential to give Chenault the space to discuss his life, his art, and his thoughts, but first a few words on Jeff and what his experiences offer us in the dance music community.

Looking to Jeff’s experience reveals the dogged Do-It-Yourself ethos that is encoded on the DNA of columbus electronic music. Though I don’t want to over-emphasize the impact of one man, I think its safe to say that Jeff and his contemporaries like Andy Izold, Carl Howard, Trademark Gunderson, James Towning, Steve Wymer, and many more inspired many people in Columbus to follow their dreams to create art in the broadest sense of the term. For instance,  his work with Andy Izold in the experimental band Ten-Speed Guillotine helped introduce a new generation of Columbus music makers and listeners to think expansively about what music is. No doubt,  his pushing of the ethos of DIY Cassette Culture with his Exoteque Music Label also demystified making art and made it an accessible for a wide audience. I know Jeff’s stories and work today inspire me  to think broadly and never discount a sound. 

I only hope we can continue to think broadly, like Jeff and his contemporaries did, when we curate shows so we can push for a merging of different music scenes with our dance music scene. For instance, I think listeners and artists can gain a lot by going to events where noise/ambient/experimental artists are showcased alongside dance music artists. The Body Release & ele_mental days saw artists fluidly moving between noise, ambient, experimental circles and dance music shows. Today, the merging of experimental and dance artists has been pursued though Scott Niemet’s KVLT events and The Fuse Factory’s Frequency Friday shows (Read more about that here), but I think we need to continue to think about more ways we can bring these two communities together again under one roof in innovative and different spaces. Have you checked out the work of Walleye, Mike Shiflet, Joe Panzner, Ben Bennett, Ryan Jewell, Tone Elevator, OHIOAN, Forest Management, Glacial 23, and countless other Columbus/Ohio Noise/ambient/experimental artists? Go listen and tell me they don’t add amazing musical contributions to our scene.

Yet, why stop at just merging these two scene? No doubt, there has been a general openness to merging scenes in Columbus. The merging of dance and hardcore scenes has been done with Scott Niemet’s most recent KVLT show and My Best Friend’s Party has attempted to bring together jam and dance scenes under one room with the Bass Jam shows. I propose we keep going. What can we learn from Jazz? What about Blues? That same gritty D-I-Y ethos that drives us when no one is watching should drive us to continually innovate, as so many of the foundational members of our scene always have. We don’t need to be the best. We just need to keep learning, listening, and creating  and not get caught up in a rat race that is blind to values and those it is leaving behind.

Local Autonomy: What role did music play in your life growing up? How did you become a musician?

Jeff Chenault:  I grew up listening to music my entire life.  My dad’s first job after I was born was as a DJ in Chillicothe, Ohio so I was constantly exposed to music.  When I was 5 years old I got my first turntable/stereo.  My dad would always bring me records especially the radio station rejects they wouldn’t play because it didn’t fit their format.  So at a very early age I went from the Beatles to The Plastic Cow Goes Mooooog.  I was always fascinated by sound.  The whole punk thing and the spirit of DIY is what really pushed me to make my own music even though I don’t consider myself a musician.

LA: We had a really interesting conversation about how the time period you come up in influences your approach to music creation. How did it benefit you to have to think about how to make music in a time period when studio quality tools and YouTube tutorials were not so readily available as they are for today’s generation?

JC:  Well, back in the early eighties the only computer I had was a Commodore 64.  There was no internet at the time and to make any kind of sound you had to type in pages and pages of text.  Not very fun for sparking creativity in someone who wanted to make music with it.  Eventually I bought a used reel to reel, a Moog Satellite synthesizer and a Roland TR-606.  It all comes down to the tools that are available for you to use.  If I had “real” computer or an iPad when growing up I’m sure composing would have been a lot easier.  We had to approach sound from a purely physical standpoint. 

LA: It seems that your experiences growing up in Port Huron, Michigan really shaped your love of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) music. What is it about DIY music that you love so much?

JC:  Everything!  I blame Lon C Diehlfor my audio issues.  Lon was the manager of Full Moon Records and he would later go on to form Hunting Lodge with Richard Skott in 1982.  Port Huron was a very small town but Lon would order the latest electronic and experimental music that nobody ever heard of. I noticed that a lot of bands would release things themselves.  Bands like Throbbing Gristle, Nocturnal Emissions, SPK, Nurse with Wound, Maurizio Bianchi, etc. were all releasing things independently.  They did everything from recording the music to making the cover art and then self promotion.  This was very inspiring to me.      

LA: You were and still are a member of the cassette culture movement. I think the movement is so fascinating. Can you tell us a little about your experiences trading tapes in the 80s and early 90s and the impact it had on you as an artist?

JC: Back in the 1980’s and 90’s this was the way you could share your music with like-minded individuals.  Labels like Hal McGee’s Cause and Effect, Chris Phinney’s Harsh Reality Music and Carl Howard’s Audiofile Tapes were huge!

(L to R: Carl Howard, Jeff Chenault, & Hal McGee)

They had 100’s of tapes for sale or trade.  Hence I started the ITN/Exoteque Music label so I could share my music as well.  Some of the best music during this time period was made by people working out of their own homes.  For me it was awe-inspiring!  Check out Andrew Szava-Kovats incredible documentary called Grindstone Redux (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!).  It’s the story of the cassette culture and includes interviews with the recording artists and label owners.

Hal McGee at Fuse Factory Frequency Friday Show

LA: What lessons do you think can we take away from the DIY and Cassette Culture Movements to help build our Columbus electronic music scene more generally?

JC:  That if you have a passion for something, do it!  A lot of people who were doing things 30 years ago are still very active today!  Why?  Because they are passionate about something and they feel the need to create things and share them with people.  It’s as simple as that.  I’m hoping that today’s youth are just as passionate.   Getting people to come out and support electronic and experimental music is not as easy.  Fuse Factory hope to change this by bringing in not only artists from around the world, but by supporting local artists as well.  They are a think tank for creative ideas.

Mike Shiflet & Jeff Central From It Looks Like Its Open 5/22/12

LA: You have been intensively studying exotica music for the last thirty years. What is exotica music and why do you think it is important to preserve it and educate people about it?

JC:  Exotica music is a huge passion of mine.  In the original heyday of the 1950’s and 60’s, Exotica music was a form of easy listening that had the ability to transport the listener to an unknown South Seas island all from the comfort of home.  It was a form of audio opium that sometimes included strange percussion instruments, bird calls, and sound effects.   It was definitely music to escape by.  I have been collecting and researching this music so long that I thought what better way to preserve it than by releasing it!  So with the help of Dionysus Records we released The Beachcomber Trio “live” at the Kahiki” and “The Exotic Sounds of Jerry Sun.”

To help with the preservation effort I have also conducted seminars at the Tiki Oasis and Hukilau events.  Through education and preservation I hope to save this very cool tropical music from extinction.  My next seminar will be in Dayton at The Call of the Tropics Tiki Art Show in July.

LA: Ten-Speed Guillotine is cited by Body Release and the ele_mental crew as a key formative influence. I know such thinking is weird to do, but would you indulge me and gauge the impact you had on the late 80s early 90s period of dance music?

Ten-Speed Guillotine Poster

JC:  I don’t think it’s weird to be influenced by other bandsor individuals  that come before you.  I was influenced by lots of different people growing up.  I like the word inspiring better.  As far as having an impact I can’t say.  I do know that back when we were playing out live in the Columbus area, not too many bands were doing what we were doing.

Ten-Speed Guillotine poster

We had a unique sound that combined bizarre loops and samples, dark ambient, noise and electronic dance music. We were actually a combination of all our influences at the time.  Local people also influenced us.  Steve Wymer had his Spine project, Mark Gunderson had the Evolution Control Committee and James Towning was recording under the name Fact 22.  We all knew and respected each other and influenced each other as well.  Hell, Body Release influenced me!!   

LA: It was so shocking to me to learn that in 2005 many of your noise/experimental sound projects had run their course and you sold many of your instruments. Would you be so kind to describe what led you to grow tired or disenchanted with electronic exploration and what sparked you to get back into it within the past two years?

JC:  I think most artists get disenchanted or bored with their work at some point.  For me I just wasn’t having any fun anymore and my sound ideas had run their course with the equipment I had.  I still recorded a few side projects with Andy Izold but for the most part my output was next to nothing.  I’m one who really needs motivation to do something.

In 2011 when Dan Rockwell showed me the iPad and some of the music apps that he had I was completely hooked.   Not only was I hearing new sounds, it was a new way of thinking and a new way of playing.  Since then I’ve completely embraced the iOS musical world and haven’t looked back.

Performance at Brothers Drake–December 2011

LA: Much of your sound work relies on you doing free form improv with your longtime collaborators Dan Rockwell and Andy Izold in a group called Circuitry Room. Why do you enjoy improv and what constraints do vocals and beats put on a “no map” approach to music?

JC:  Working with sound improvisation leaves a huge palette to work with.  No restrictions and no rules are very liberating for a sound artist.  Vocals and beats tend to be restrictive.  Vocals mean words and words have meanings which can be misinterpreted by different people so we tend to keep them out.   Cut-ups and wordless vocals are interesting though and I love rhythmic waveforms but drum beats to me mean dance and we do not want to be a dance band.  I want something that’s totally different and I get that with freeform improvisation.

Wonderful Video Interview with Circuitry Room By Rich Bowers

LA: You and the other members of the Fuse Factory have been looking to merge noise/experimental music with artists in the dance music community in Columbus for your Frequency Friday shows at Wild Goose Creative. I have always thought there was such natural cross between the two groups of artist that became evident to me in events like Scott Niemet’s Kvlt events. Why do you think it’s important to have these two communities playing on the stage with one another?

JC:  It’s important because both the noise and dance communities are not only growing and evolving, they are connected as well.  The artists and performers are actually influencing each other and we think it’s a good idea to bring them together.  I think it will ultimately benefit both communities and will introduce people to new ways of expressing their creativity.

LA: I think this last question really gets to the core of your artistic motivation. What role does having fun play in keeping your artistic spark alive?

JC:  For me personally it’s everything!  I mean, if you’re not having fun then why bother.

Check out Jeff’s Bandcamp page HERE for more of his work.

(Thanks to Jeff for all the pictures)

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